Skip to main content

News and Events

Recent News

Former student continues to break new ground!

4/15/2019 —


Robert Reinhart Ph.D. earned his doctorate degree from Vanderbilt University in 2016. He worked under the mentorship of Geoff Woodman in the Vanderbilt Visual Cognitive Neuroscience Laboratory. Dr. Reinhart accepted a tenure-track faculty position at Boston University straight out of graduate school.







Alex Maier's Findings on eye-signal blending re-examine Nobel-winning research

1/24/2019 — Look at an object, cover one eye at a time, and the object appears to jump back and forth. Stare at it with both eyes working, and we take for granted a complicated process of the brain combining the signals into one, giving us a clear view and proper depth perception. That happens the moment those dual signals enter the visual cortex in the brain, a team of Vanderbilt University researchers has discovered. Their finding, made possible by modern technology, is counter to one that garnered the 1981 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. Vanderbilt’s Alexander Maier, assistant professor of psychology, and Ph.D. student Kacie Dougherty used computerized eye-tracking cameras plus electrodes that can record activity of single neurons in a particular area. Knowing precisely where the signals meet and the brain processes them is vital to treating amblyopia, or reduced vision in one eye because the brain and eye aren’t working together properly. So far, the standard treatment is placing a patch over the working eye in an effort to jumpstart the “lazy” one. If pediatric eye specialists miss the short window when the problem can be fixed, it’s typically permanent. “Our data suggest that the two eyes are merged as they arrive in the neocortex and not at a later stage of brain processing, as previously believed,” Maier said. “This major leap in our understanding of how the brain combines information from the two eyes is promising for our search for therapeutic approaches to some of the most common eye diseases in children.” Knowing which neurons are involved in the process also opens the door to targeted brain therapies that reach well beyond eye patches. “There are six functionally distinct layers in the primary visual cortex,” Dougherty said. “We thought the initial processing happened in the upper layers, but it’s actually in the middle. That’s vital information for developing treatments.” Their findings appear today in a paper titled “Binocular modulation of monocular V1 neurons” in the journal Current Biology. Their work was supported by National Eye Institute grant 1R01EY027402-01, National Eye Institute Training Grant 5T32 EY007135-23, the Whitehall Foundation, the Knights Templar Eye Foundation and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. Share This Story AddThis Sharing Buttons Share to TwitterShare to FacebookShare to LinkedInShare to SlackShare to EmailShare to PrintFriendlyShare to More Media Inquiries Heidi Hall · (615) 322-NEWS ·  Explore Story Topics Education and Psychology Health and Medicine releases Research Alexander Maier Arts and Science eye signal blending psychology Research Vanderbilt Research Trending visual cortex Related Stories PhotoTeam finds how error and reward signals are organized within cerebral cortex Jan 14, 2019 PhotoWhy does it take humans so long to mature compared to other animals? Look to your neurons! Oct 30, 2018 PhotoCenter for Integrative and Cognitive neuroscience hosts workshop Oct 19, 2018 PhotoStudy reveals safety signal from genes that mimic drugs Mar 1, 2018

Psychological Sciences Alumnae Named Finalist for the Rhodes Scholarship!

12/12/2018 — Sarena Martinez, MS’16, Psychological Sciences alum and honors student, was named a finalist for the Rhodes Scholarship, an international postgraduate award for study at the University of Oxford. Martinez, who studied psychology in the College of Arts and Science, was one of the 880 students endorsed by their institutions and invited to interview for one of the 32 Rhodes Scholarships awarded annually. Martinez is currently a Venture for America Fellow in the city of Birmingham’s Department of Innovation and Economic Opportunity.

In Honor of the Late Vivien Casagrande!

11/08/2018 —

At a ceremony yesterday(11/6/18) at meetings of the Society for Neuroscience our friend and colleague Vivien Casagrande was announced as the 2018 winner of the Patricia Goldman-Rakic Hall of Honor Award. Named in honor of the late Paticia Goldman-Rakic, this award is given posthumously for recognition “of a neuroscientist who pursued career excellence and exhibited dedication to the advancement of women in neuroscience.” To quote from the SfN website:


The late Vivien Casagrande, PhD, was an internationally known neuroscientist with a remarkable record of groundbreaking research on sensory systems and development. She joined the Vanderbilt University faculty in 1975, where she was a professor of biology and psychology. Her research, which mapped the visual brain circuitry in a variety of species, has advanced the understanding of the development and evolution of the mammalian visual system.


Casagrande published 130 research papers in neuroscience and authored or coauthored an additional 30 chapters and reviews. She received numerous awards for her research, including the American Association of Anatomists' C.J. Herrick Award for contributions to comparative neuroscience, the Vanderbilt Chancellor's Award for Research, and election as a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). Casagrande was a past president of the Cajal Club, the nation's oldest neuroscience society, and served twice as president of the Middle Tennessee Chapter of the Society for Neuroscience. Her teaching and mentoring contributions were recognized by her receipt of the Vanderbilt Brain Institute Outstanding Teacher of the Year Award in 2015.


Casagrande passed away in 2017 from cancer. Vanderbilt has honored her memory by establishing an endowed lecture series and an endowed, annual travel award for an outstanding graduate student or postdoctoral fellow. In addition, funds from Casagrande's estate have been used to endow a scholarship in neuroscience at Vanderbilt. 




We are happy that her husband, James McKenna (Professor Emeritus, Vanderbilt) will have the crystal bowl marking this honor.



Caoimhe Stack, Ariel James, and Duane Watson win 2018 Clifford T. Morgan Best Article Award!

9/13/2018 — aoimhe, Ariel, and Duane are the recipients of the 2018 Clifford T. Morgan Best Article award for the most outstanding paper published this year in Memory & Cognition, a journal of the Psychonomic Society. Caoimhe will be recognized at the Annual Meeting of the Psychonomic Society for this honor and will receive a $1,000 award. The award-winning article was selected by the Editor of the journal and is entitled "A failure to replicate rapid syntactic adaptation in comprehension." The article is available at this link: and more information about the award can be obtained here: Congratulations Caoimhe, Ariel, and Duane!

Congratulations Daryl, Jurnell and René !

8/24/2018 — Daryl Fougnie, Jurnell Cockhren and René Marois win the 2018 Clifford T. Morgan Best Article Award for the article entitled "A common source of attention for auditory and visual tracking" published in Attention, Perception & Psychophysics in the past year. This is the second best 'journal article' award to Fougnie for his Ph.D. work in Marois' lab. The Psychonomic Society Clifford T. Morgan Best Article Award honors individuals for the best paper published in each Psychonomic Society journal in the last year. Articles are chosen by each of the Society's journals during the summer and the selected first authors of those papers will be honored at the Annual Meeting and receive a monetary award. One recipient from each journal is chosen to receive a $1,000 award.

Dykens wins the 2018 Rare Impact Award from the National Organization for Rare Disorders!

5/22/2018 — Professor Elisabeth Dykens has been selected to receive the 2018 Rare Impact Award from the National Organization for Rare Disorders. Her research focuses on the behavioral studies of Prader-Willi Syndrome (PWS) and Williams Syndrome and was the first researcher to describe cognitive profiles and compulsivity in PWS patients. More information about this award is available here, Congratulations Elisabeth!